Finding Family Everywhere

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. And guys, I just want to say how thankful I am for my workplace.

There’s a concept called Impostor Syndrome, which marks the inability to internalize one’s accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. I feel this a lot. I understand that there are things that I do quite well, but I still feel like I’m somehow faking it as I do those things. Or somehow narrowly escaping people’s notice enough to get by.

It’s bizarre, though, that I sometimes feel Impostor Syndrome with friendship. I often feel that I’m not holding up my end of the bargain in friendships, just by being me. That’s not what they’re really looking for in a friend, I think; they’re just being friendly because they feel awkward and I’m imposing. How can you be a good friend? Am I doing this right? What’s the protocol for scenarios that I encounter on a daily basis? Maybe one day I’ll get it right and my friends will ignore the mess I’m covering up now.

Thanksgiving has always been a time of laughter and peace in my family; it’s a holiday that society allows you to get together with your family and not have to stress out about what gifts you got someone, whether they’ll actually like it or if you have failed at understanding them as a human being and got something completely deviated from their interests. Plus, it has bangin’ food. But mostly the part about family.

But in recent years, I’ve had a lot more Thanksgivings away from my family (that’s what happens when you work at a business that opens its doors to patrons on holidays), and the stress level involved with Turkey Day has risen a little bit. It’s not because I don’t end up seeing friends on the holiday, or that people don’t offer to have me over for their family’s dinner — it’s that fear of people actually wanting me there, and not just spending time with me because they feel bad that I’m by myself.

This year, I hosted a Thanksgiving brunch at my house. I told friends to show up anytime before 2:30 (because then I had to go to work), and it was a nice trickle of friends. Hosting is always one of those things that I find extremely exhilarating, but simultaneously stressful. I love having people over, and I love watching people have fun and enjoy good company because of something I made happen, but the fear of no one showing up is ever-present. It’s almost not worth the effort, knowing that I’ll be silently freaking out about dumb stuff like that, but then, there is that other fear: if I don’t invite them over, then I’ll never see them.

Seriously, guys. Talk about a difference between head and heart: in my head, I know I’m being ludicrous, but my heart still pounds about it.

So, say you were to take a slice out of my Thanksgiving brunch today, and doing so would enable you to see the inner emotions that I, as the host, felt, like layers of a cake: alongside happiness, there is nervous energy — are there enough plates out? Is the food cold? Are my guests actually enjoying themselves, or just pretending?  — with a few layers of self-doubt, laughter, and quiet panic. The good layers do outweigh the bad, but those bad layers are still there.

Now let’s take a slice out of my work shift. There is, of course, a certain amount of stress involved in any given work day, but it’s a very different kind of stress: mostly, it is deadline stress instead of social stress; it is stress about how weird some patrons are, and not stress over how my coworkers feel about me. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with my coworkers over the three years that I’ve worked there, to the point where I can make offhand jokes without worrying about how someone will take it, or tell just by looking at someone that they’re having a bad day, or know that I don’t have to be all smiley in order to coexist with these people. They are wonderful, and I’m so thankful for them. And yes, we have our moments of contention; I may not see eye to eye with someone on a particular subject, but at the end of the day, they are still wonderful.

I wish that life could be exactly like my work environment.

sb10063892c-001There are plenty of groups of people that I consider to be somewhat “family”, but my work family is the closest to real family that I could get. And I feel like most people would wrinkle their noses at such a concept, because maybe they don’t have that same environment at work. I’m pretty lucky in that respect. But these people have seen so much of my life (qualitatively, not quantitatively), and my personality, that there’s nothing else to call them but “family”.

It’s hard to feel Impostor’s Syndrome with family. Maybe I still show my privilege in being able to say that — I know a lot of people who can’t stand their family, let alone feel comfortable around them. But a girl can be thankful of that privilege, right?

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Us Vs. Them

I’m so sorry, guys.

We have a lot of people in this country who are hurt, confused, and scared for the wellbeing of their everyday lives. And it’s all coming to a head.

The frustrating thing about today is that the majority of the people I know personally are not Trump supporters. And by majority, I’d say probably 90%. And that’s just the thing, isn’t it? I’m in the city, and don’t have a car. I don’t ever go into rural areas and see Trump sign after Trump sign. When you look at a map of Pennsylvania as related to the election results, you see a sea of red surrounding my blue county.

But I am a local girl. I see my neighbors, and the people who frequent the places that I associate myself with — not all with my exact views and beliefs, but you could say like-minded. When it comes to my understanding of how many Trump supporters there are in the United States, it is a matter of numbers and statistics — something that fades into the background as I engage in conversation with real, flesh-and-blood people, who contradict those statistics. Any dissenters are out there, just out of reach.

So I guess I’m beginning to see just how small my world really is.

But the election was still basically a split down the middle. Only half of our country is happy about the results of the election. And it is going to be incredibly difficult for me — for all of us — to not walk through this week with the “us vs. them” mentality.

When I was a kid, tromping around in the playground of Evangelical Christian Land, I proudly wore that mentality. I remember thinking to myself in middle school that my sister and I were the only real Christians in the whole school. Other kids just went to church or CCC and said they were Christians, but they didn’t actually know what they were saying. They didn’t understand how wrong they were.

And somehow, that made me feel good. That made me feel important. I felt really great that I knew where I was going when I died, and no one else did. I never explicitly thought, I’m smarter than them, but I believed that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”, and felt a sense of pride in being on the other side of that message.

Note: I didn’t do a whole lot of evangelizing.

I was a fervent Christian, surrounding myself with Christian friends, going to Bible studies and memorizing Bible verses, and I really didn’t do much to affect the thoughts of those who weren’t Christians. The world and I had an understanding: I would do my thing and they could do theirs, and if they wanted to come over to my side and admit that I was right, then I would welcome them with open arms. But apart from inviting a few people to youth group, I did squat to further the kingdom of God.

It’s actually probably better that I didn’t. I think if I had started evangelizing at that point in my life, it would have been in a very qualitative way (how many Christians are there now?), wishing to win souls for the Lord rather than get to know the people around me. Looking back on the times that I did invite friends to youth group, any hope I had that they would become Christians was not actually connected to who they were as a person — it was just throwing a bunch of darts at a board and hoping they would stick. I did very little to understand the darts in my hand, and see through the perspective they had.

Maybe that’s why I yelled at the campaigner who came to my door after I voted yesterday and told him I didn’t need to tell him who I voted for (sorry, bud… Sam’s last straw was broken a couple days ago). These people going door to door mean well, but they don’t actually want to have a dialogue with you about who you are and what you stand for. They’re checking off boxes — “We’ve got a Hillary house over here” — because more checks means more people who agree with them, and that makes them feel good.

But you know what makes someone feel even better? Looking at the other side and knowing they’re wrong. Yeah, there’s frustration that half the country voted for a racist bigot, but at least now the other half can say that they’re better, right?

And as long as we continue to think that, then that divide will remain. Too often our response to an argument is to put up a wall, think the opponent is stupid, and construct our responses accordingly. It is noteworthy that in arguments, you always have an opponent. We have ingrained the “us vs. them” mentality in every part of our lives, and the best way to respond to that is to adopt the same mentality. And the divide grows.

This country is hurting. It is so important to remember that all of us are in this together. Let’s have dialogue, not arguments. Let’s get to know each other and allow the “other side” to get to know us. It is not us vs. them. It is just US.